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Historical materialism is a
methodology Methodology is the study of research methods, or, more formally, "'a contextual framework' for research, a coherent and logical scheme based on views, beliefs, and values, that guides the choices researchers
r other users R, or r, is the eighteenth letter of the modern English alphabet and the ISO basic Latin alphabet The ISO basic Latin alphabet is a Latin-script alphabet A Latin-script alphabet (Latin alphabet or Roman alphabet) is an alphabet that ...
make". It compris ...
to understand human
societies A society is a group of individuals involved in persistent social interaction In social science, a social relation or social interaction is any relationship between two or more individuals. Social relations derived from individual agenc ...
and their development throughout history, arguing that historical changes in social structure are ultimately driven by the struggles and conflicts unleashed by material and
technological Technology ("science of craft", from Ancient Greek, Greek , ''techne'', "art, skill, cunning of hand"; and , ''wikt:-logia, -logia'') is the sum of Art techniques and materials, techniques, skills, Scientific method, methods, and Business proc ...
changes. This is in contrast to Enlightenment views of history which claim that the sweep of human history, the rise and fall of kingdoms, empires and states, can broadly be explained by the ambitions of 'great men' or 'great women' or through the motivating power of 'great
ideas A mental representation (or cognitive representation), in philosophy of mind Philosophy of mind is a branch of philosophy that studies the ontology and nature of the mind and its relationship with the body. The mind–body problem is a paradigm ...

ideas
' such as the struggle for reason over superstition or the fight for democracy and freedom.
Karl Marx Karl Heinrich Marx (; 5 May 1818 – 14 March 1883) was a German philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, M ...

Karl Marx
(1818–1883) asserted that the material conditions of a society's
mode of production In the writings of Karl Marx Karl Heinrich Marx (; 5 May 1818 – 14 March 1883) was a German philosopher, economist, historian, sociologist, political theorist, journalist and socialist revolutionary. Born in Trier, German Confederation, ...
, or in Marxist terms a society's
productive forces Productive forces, productive powers, or forces of production (German German(s) may refer to: Common uses * of or related to Germany * Germans, Germanic ethnic group, citizens of Germany or people of German ancestry * For citizens of Germany, ...
and
relations of production Relations of production (german: Produktionsverhältnisse, links=no) is a concept frequently used by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in their theory of historical materialism and in '' Das Kapital''. It is first explicitly used in Marx's publi ...
, fundamentally determine society's organization and development. Marx and Engels argue that human societies express fundamental conflicts between the class of people who create the wealth of society and those who have ownership or control of the means of production, decide how society's wealth and resources are to be spent and have a monopoly of political and military power. Historical materialism provides a profound challenge to the view that the historical process has come to a close and that capitalism is the end of history. In seeking the causes of developments and changes in human society, historical materialism focuses on the means by which humans collectively produce the necessities of life. It posits that social classes and the relationship between them, along with the political structures and ways of thinking in society, are founded on and reflect contemporary economic activity. Since Marx's time, the theory has been modified and expanded by some writers. It now has many Marxist and non-Marxist variants. Many Marxists contend that historical materialism is a
scientific Science () is a systematic enterprise that Scientific method, builds and organizes knowledge in the form of Testability, testable explanations and predictions about the universe."... modern science is a discovery as well as an invention. ...

scientific
approach to the study of history.


History and development


Origins

Attempts at analyzing history in a scientific, materialist manner originated in France during the
Age of Enlightenment The Age of Enlightenment (also known as the Age of Reason or simply the Enlightenment); ger, Aufklärung, "Enlightenment"; it, L'Illuminismo, "Enlightenment"; pl, Oświecenie , "Enlightenment"; pt, Iluminismo, "Enlightenment"; es, link= ...
with thinkers such as the
philosophes The ''philosophes'' (French for " philosophers") were the intellectuals of the 18th-century Enlightenment.Kishlansky, Mark, ''et al.'' ''A Brief History of Western Civilization: The Unfinished Legacy, volume II: Since 1555.'' (5th ed. 2007). Few ...
Montesquieu Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu, Lot-et-Garonne, Montesquieu (; ; 18 January 168910 February 1755), generally referred to as simply Montesquieu, was a French judge, intellectual, man of letters, historian, and po ...

Montesquieu
and
Condorcet Marie Jean Antoine Nicolas de Caritat, Marquis of Condorcet (; 17 September 1743 – 29 March 1794), known as Nicolas de Condorcet, was a French philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy. The term ''philosopher'' comes from ...

Condorcet
and the physiocrat
Turgot
Turgot
. Inspired by these earlier thinkers, especially Condorcet, the
Utopian socialist Utopian socialism is the term often used to describe the first current of modern socialism Socialism is a Political philosophy, political, Social philosophy, social, and economic philosophy encompassing a range of Economic systems, economic ...
Henri de Saint-Simon Claude Henri de Rouvroy, comte de Saint-Simon, often referred to as Henri de Saint-Simon (; 17 October 1760 – 19 May 1825), was a French political, economic and socialist Socialism is a Political philosophy, political, Social philosophy, so ...
formulated his own materialist interpretation of history, similar to those later used in Marxism, analyzing historical epochs based on their level of technology and organization and dividing them between eras of slavery, serfdom, and finally wage labor. According to the socialist leader
Jean Jaurès Auguste Marie Joseph Jean Léon Jaurès (3 September 185931 July 1914), commonly referred to as Jean Jaurès (), was a French Socialist Socialism is a Political philosophy, political, Social philosophy, social, and economic philosophy encom ...

Jean Jaurès
, the French writer
Antoine Barnave Antoine Pierre Joseph Marie Barnave (22 October 176129 November 1793) was a French politician, and, together with Honoré Mirabeau, one of the most influential orators of the early part of the French Revolution The French Revolution ( ) ...

Antoine Barnave
had priority in first developing the theory that economic forces are the driving factors in history.
Karl Marx Karl Heinrich Marx (; 5 May 1818 – 14 March 1883) was a German philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, M ...

Karl Marx
never used the words "historical materialism" to describe his theory of history; the term first appears in
Friedrich Engels Friedrich Engels ( ,"Engels"
''Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary''.
' 1880 work ''
Socialism: Utopian and Scientific ''Socialism: Utopian and Scientific'' is a short book first published in 1880 by German-born socialist Friedrich Engels. The work was primarily extracted from a longer polemic work published in 1876, ''Anti-Dühring.'' It first appeared in the Fren ...
'', to which Marx wrote an introduction for the French edition. By 1892, Engels indicated that he accepted the broader usage of the term "historical materialism," writing the following in an introduction to an
English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medieval England, which has eventually become the World language, leading lan ...
edition of ''Socialism: Utopian and Scientific;'' Marx's initial interest in materialism is evident in his doctoral thesis which compared the philosophical
atomism Atomism (from Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 million ...
of
Democritus Democritus (; el, Δημόκριτος, ''Dēmókritos'', meaning "chosen of the people"; – ) was an Ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language used in ancient Greece and the classical antiquity, ancient w ...

Democritus
with the
materialist Materialism is a form of philosophical monism which holds matter In classical physics and general chemistry, matter is any substance that has mass and takes up space by having volume. All everyday objects that can be touched are ultimatel ...
philosophy of
Epicurus Epicurus, ''Epíkouros'', "ally, comrade" (341–270 BC) was an and who founded , a highly influential school of . He was born on the Greek island of to parents. Influenced by , , , and possibly the , he turned against the of his day and e ...

Epicurus
as well as his close reading of
Adam Smith Adam Smith ( 1723 – 17 July 1790) was a Scottish economist, philosopher as well as a moral philosopher Ethics or moral philosophy is a branch of philosophy that "involves systematizing, defending, and recommending concepts of right and ...

Adam Smith
and other writers in classical
political economy Political economy is the study of production Production may be: Economics and business * Production (economics) * Production, the act of manufacturing goods * Production, in the outline of industrial organization, the act of making products (g ...
. Marx and Engels first state and detail their materialist conception of history within the pages of ''
The German Ideology ''The German Ideology'' (German: ''Die deutsche Ideologie'') is a set of manuscripts written by Karl Marx Karl Heinrich Marx (; 5 May 1818 – 14 March 1883) was a German philosopher, economist, historian, sociologist, political theorist, j ...
'', written in 1845. The book, which
structural Marxists Structural Marxism is an approach to Marxist philosophy based on structuralism, primarily associated with the work of the French philosopher Louis Althusser and his students. It was influential in France during the 1960s and 1970s, and also came t ...
such as
Louis Althusser Louis Pierre Althusser (, ; ; 16 October 1918 – 22 October 1990) was a French Marxist philosopher Marxism is a method of socioeconomic analysis that uses a materialist interpretation of historical development, better known as historical m ...
regard as Marx's first 'mature' work, is a lengthy polemic against Marx and Engels' fellow
Young Hegelians The Young Hegelians (german: Junghegelianer), or Left Hegelians (''Linkshegelianer''), or the Hegelian Left (''die Hegelsche Linke''), were a group of German intellectuals who, in the decade or so after the death of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel ...
and contemporaries
Ludwig Feuerbach Ludwig Andreas von Feuerbach (; 28 July 1804 – 13 September 1872) was a German philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy. The term ''philosopher'' comes from the grc, φιλόσοφος, , translit=philosophos, meaning ...

Ludwig Feuerbach
,
Bruno Bauer Bruno Bauer (; 6 September 180913 April 1882) was a German philosopher and theologian. As a student of G. W. F. Hegel, Bauer was a radical Rationalist in philosophy, politics and Biblical criticism Biblical criticism is the use of critical a ...

Bruno Bauer
, and
Max Stirner Johann Kaspar Schmidt (25 October 1806 – 26 June 1856), known professionally as Max Stirner, was a German post-Hegelian philosopher, dealing mainly with the Hegelian notion of social alienation and self-consciousness. Stirner is often seen as ...

Max Stirner
. Stirner's 1844 work '' The Unique and its Property'' had a particularly strong impact on the worldview of Marx and Engels: Stirner's blistering critique of
morality Morality (from ) is the differentiation of intention Intentions are mental states in which the agent commits themselves to a course of action. Having the plan to visit the zoo tomorrow is an example of an intention. The action plan is the '' ...

morality
and whole-hearted embrace of
egoism Egoism is the philosophy concerned with the role of the self The self is an individual person as the object of its own reflective consciousness. Since the ''self'' is a reference by a subject to the same subject, this reference is necessar ...
prompted the pair to formulate a conception of
socialism Socialism is a political Politics (from , ) is the set of activities that are associated with Decision-making, making decisions in Social group, groups, or other forms of Power (social and political), power relations between individuals, ...
along lines of
self-interest Self-interest generally refers to a focus on the needs or desires (''interests'') of one's . Most times, actions that display self-interest are often performed without conscious knowing. A number of , , and theories examine the role of self-inte ...
rather than simple
humanism Humanism is a philosophical stance that emphasizes the value and agency of human beings, individually and collectively. The meaning of the term ''humanism'' has fluctuated according to the successive intellectual movements which have ident ...

humanism
alone, grounding that conception in the scientific study of history. Perhaps Marx's clearest formulation of historical materialism resides in the preface to his 1859 book ''
A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy ''A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy'' (german: Zur Kritik der Politischen Ökonomie) is a book by Karl Marx, first published in 1859. The book is mainly an analysis of capitalism Capitalism is an economic system based on t ...
'':
The mode of production of material life conditions the general process of social, political and intellectual life. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness.


Continued development

In a foreword to his essay ''Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy'' (1886), three years after Marx's death, Engels claimed confidently that "the Marxist world outlook has found representatives far beyond the boundaries of Germany and Europe and in all the literary languages of the world." Indeed, in the years after Marx and Engels' deaths, "historical materialism" was identified as a distinct philosophical doctrine and was subsequently elaborated upon and systematized by Orthodox Marxist and Marxist–Leninist thinkers such as
Eduard Bernstein Eduard Bernstein (; 6 January 1850 – 18 December 1932) was a German social democratic Social democracy is a political Politics (from , ) is the set of activities that are associated with Decision-making, making decisions in Social ...

Eduard Bernstein
,
Karl Kautsky Karl Johann Kautsky (; ; 16 October 1854 – 17 October 1938) was a Czech-Austrian philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy. The term ''philosopher'' comes from the grc, φιλόσοφος, , translit=philosophos, meaning ...
,
Georgi Plekhanov Georgi Valentinovich Plekhanov (; rus, Гео́ргий Валенти́нович Плеха́нов, p=ɡʲɪˈorɡʲɪj vəlʲɪnˈtʲinəvʲɪtɕ plʲɪˈxanəf, a=Ru-Georgi Plekhanov-JermyRei.ogg; – 30 May 1918) was a Russian revolution ...

Georgi Plekhanov
and
Nikolai Bukharin Nikolai Ivanovich Bukharin (russian: Никола́й Ива́нович Буха́рин) ( – 15 March 1938) was a Bolsheviks, Bolshevik Russian Revolution, revolutionary, Soviet Union, Soviet politician, Marxist philosopher and economist ...
. This occurred despite the fact that many of Marx's earlier works on historical materialism, including ''The German Ideology'', remained unpublished until the 1930s. In the early years of the 20th century, historical materialism was often treated by socialist writers as interchangeable with
dialectical materialism Dialectical materialism is a philosophy of science, philosophy of history, history, and Nature (philosophy), nature developed in Europe and based on the writings of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Dialectic#Marxist dialectic, Marxist dialectics, ...
, a formulation never used by Marx or Engels. According to many Marxists influenced by Soviet Marxism, historical materialism is a specifically
sociological Sociology is a social science Social science is the Branches of science, branch of science devoted to the study of society, societies and the Social relation, relationships among individuals within those societies. The term was formerl ...
method, while dialectical materialism refers to the more general, abstract
philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about Metaphysics, existence, reason, Epistemology, knowledge, Ethics, values, Philosophy of mind, mind, and Philosophy of language, language. Such questio ...

philosophy
underlying Marx and Engels' body of work. This view is based on
Joseph Stalin Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin . ( – 5 March 1953) was a Georgia (country), Georgian revolutionary and the ruler of the Soviet Union from 1927 until 1953. He served as both General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (1922 ...
's pamphlet '' Dialectical and Historical Materialism'', as well as textbooks issued by the Institute of Marxism–Leninism of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The substantivist
ethnographic Ethnography (from Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is ap ...

ethnographic
approach of economic
anthropologistAn anthropologist is a person engaged in the practice of anthropology. Anthropology is the study of aspects of humans within past and present Society, societies. Social anthropology, cultural anthropology and philosophical anthropology study the norm ...
and sociologist
Karl Polanyi Karl Paul Polanyi (; hu, Polányi Károly ; October 25, 1886 – April 23, 1964) was an Austro-Hungarian economic historian, economic anthropologist, economic sociology, economic sociologist, political economist, historical sociology, historic ...
bears similarities to historical materialism. Polanyi distinguishes between the ''formal'' definition of economics as the logic of rational choice between limited resources and a ''substantive'' definition of economics as the way humans make their living from their natural and social environment. In '' The Great Transformation'' (1944), Polanyi asserts that both the formal and substantive definitions of economics hold true under capitalism, but that the formal definition falls short when analyzing the economic behavior of pre-industrial societies, whose behavior was more often governed by redistribution and
reciprocity Reciprocity may refer to: Law and trade * Reciprocity (Canadian politics), free trade with the United States of America ** Reciprocal trade agreement, entered into in order to reduce (or eliminate) tariffs, quotas and other trade restrictions on ...
. While Polanyi was influenced by Marx, he rejected the primacy of
economic determinism Economic determinism is a socioeconomic theory that economic relationships (such as being an owner or capitalist, or being a worker or proletarian) are the foundation upon which all other societal and political arrangements in society are based ...
in shaping the course of history, arguing that rather than being a realm unto itself, an economy is embedded within its contemporary social institutions, such as the
state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspaper), a daily newspaper in Columbia, South Carolina, Un ...
in the case of the market economy. Perhaps the most notable recent exploration of historical materialism is G. A. Cohen's '' Karl Marx's Theory of History: A Defence'', which inaugurated the school of
Analytical Marxism Analytical Marxism is an approach to Marxist theory Marxist philosophy or Marxist theory are works in philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, Metaphysics, existen ...
. Cohen advances a sophisticated technological-determinist interpretation of Marx "in which history is, fundamentally, the growth of human productive power, and forms of society rise and fall according as they enable or impede that growth."
Jürgen Habermas Jürgen Habermas (, ; ; born 18 June 1929) is a German philosopher and sociologist in the tradition of critical theory and pragmatism. His work addresses communicative rationality and the public sphere. Associated with the Frankfurt School, Habe ...
believes historical materialism "needs revision in many respects", especially because it has ignored the significance of
communicative action In sociology Sociology is the study of society, human social behaviour, patterns of social relationships, social interaction, and culture that surrounds everyday life. It is a social science that uses various methods of Empirical method, empir ...
.
Göran Therborn Göran Therborn FAcSS (23 September 1941, Kalmar, Sweden) is a professor of sociology at Cambridge University and is amongst the most highly cited contemporary Marxist sociology, Marxian-influenced sociologists. He has published widely in journals s ...
has argued that the method of historical materialism should be applied to historical materialism as intellectual tradition, and to the history of Marxism itself. In the early 1980s, Paul Hirst and Barry Hindess elaborated a structural Marxist interpretation of historical materialism.
Regulation theory The regulation school (french: l'école de la régulation) is a group of writers in political economy and economics whose origins can be traced to France in the early 1970s, where economic instability and stagflation were rampant in the French econo ...
, especially in the work of
Michel Aglietta Michel Aglietta (born 1938) is a French economist An economist is a practitioner in the social sciences, social science discipline of economics. The individual may also study, develop, and apply theories and concepts from economics and write ...
draws extensively on historical materialism.
Spiral dynamics Spiral Dynamics (SD) is a model of the evolutionary development of individuals, organizations, and societies. It was initially developed by Don Edward Beck and Christopher Cowan based on the emergent cyclical theory of Clare W. Graves, combined ...
shows similarities to historical materialism. Following the
collapse of the Soviet Union The dissolution of the Soviet Union, also negatively connoted as rus, Разва́л Сове́тского Сою́за, r=Razvál Sovétskovo Sojúza, ''Ruining of the Soviet Union''. (1988–1991) was the process of internal balkanization, ...
in the early 1990s, much of Marxist thought was seen as anachronistic. A major effort to "renew" historical materialism comes from historian
Ellen Meiksins Wood Ellen Meiksins Wood (April 12, 1942 January 14, 2016) was an American-Canadian Marxist political theorist and historian ( 484– 425 BC) was a Greek historian who lived in the 5th century BC and one of the earliest historians whose work surv ...

Ellen Meiksins Wood
, who wrote in 1995 that, "There is something off about the assumption that the collapse of Communism represents a terminal crisis for Marxism. One might think, among other things, that in a period of capitalist triumphalism there is more scope than ever for the pursuit of Marxism’s principal project, the critique of capitalism."
e kernel of historical materialism was an insistence on the historicity and specificity of capitalism, and a denial that its laws were the universal laws of history...this focus on the specificity of capitalism, as a moment with historical origins as well as an end, with a systemic logic specific to it, encourages a truly historical sense lacking in classical political economy and conventional ideas of progress, and this had potentially fruitful implications for the historical study of other modes of production too.
Referencing Marx’s
Theses on Feuerbach The "Theses on Feuerbach" are eleven short philosophical notes written by Karl Marx as a basic outline for the first chapter of the book '' The German Ideology'' in 1845. Like the book for which they were written, the theses were never published in ...
, Wood says we ought to see historical materialism as “a theoretical foundation for interpreting the world in order to change it.”


Key ideas

Historical materialism builds upon the idea of historical
progress upright=1.14, alt=Painting depicting a woman draped in white robes flying westward across the land with settlers and following her on foot, John Gast, ''American Progress'', Progress is the movement towards a refined, improved, or otherwise de ...

progress
that became popular in philosophy during
the Enlightenment The Age of Enlightenment (also known as the Age of Reason or simply the Enlightenment); ger, Aufklärung, "Enlightenment"; it, L'Illuminismo, "Enlightenment"; pl, Oświecenie , "Enlightenment"; pt, Iluminismo, "Enlightenment"; es, link=n ...
, which asserted that the development of human society has progressed through a series of stages, from
hunting and gathering A hunter-gatherer is a human living in a society in which most or all food is obtained by foraging (collecting wild plants and pursuing Wildlife, wild animals). Hunter-gatherer societies stand in contrast to agriculture, agricultural societies, wh ...
, through
pastoralism Pastoralism is a form of animal husbandry where domesticated animals known as livestock are released onto large vegetated outdoor lands (pastures) for grazing, historically by nomadic people who moved around with their herds. The species invol ...
and cultivation, to commercial society. Historical materialism rests on a foundation of
dialectical Dialectic or dialectics ( grc-gre, διαλεκτική, ''dialektikḗ''; related to dialogue; german: Dialektik), also known as the dialectical method, is at base a discourse Discourse is a generalization of the notion of a conversation to a ...
materialism Materialism is a form of philosophical monism which holds matter In classical physics and general chemistry, matter is any substance that has mass and takes up space by having volume. All everyday objects that can be touched are ultimate ...
, in which matter is considered primary and ideas, thought, and consciousness are secondary, i.e. consciousness and human ideas about the universe result from material conditions rather than vice versa. Historical materialism springs from a fundamental underlying reality of human existence: that in order for subsequent generations of human beings to survive, it is necessary for them to produce and reproduce the material requirements of everyday life. Marx then extended this premise by asserting the importance of the fact that, in order to carry out production and exchange, people have to enter into very definite social relations, or more specifically, "relations of production". However, production does not get carried out in the abstract, or by entering into arbitrary or random relations chosen at will, but instead are determined by the development of the existing forces of production. How production is accomplished depends on the character of society's
productive forces Productive forces, productive powers, or forces of production (German German(s) may refer to: Common uses * of or related to Germany * Germans, Germanic ethnic group, citizens of Germany or people of German ancestry * For citizens of Germany, ...
, which refers to the means of production such as the tools, instruments, technology, land, raw materials, and human knowledge and abilities in terms of using these means of production. The relations of production are determined by the level and character of these productive forces present at any given time in history. In all societies,
Human beings Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are the most abundant and widespread species of primate, characterized by bipedality, bipedalism and large, complex brains. This has enabled the development of advanced tools, culture, and language. Humans are highly ...
collectively work on
nature Nature, in the broadest sense, is the natural, physical, material world or universe The universe ( la, universus) is all of space and time and their contents, including planets, stars, galaxy, galaxies, and all other forms of matter an ...

nature
but, especially in class societies, do not do the same work. In such societies, there is a
division of labour The division of labour is the separation of tasks in any economic system An economic system, or economic order, is a system A system is a group of interacting Interaction is a kind of action that occurs as two or more objects have an ...
in which people not only carry out different kinds of labour but occupy different social positions on the basis of those differences. The most important such division is that between manual and intellectual labour whereby one class produces a given society's wealth while another is able to monopolize control of the
means of production The means of production is a concept that encompasses the social use and ownership Ownership is the state or fact of exclusive right In Anglo-Saxon law Anglo-Saxon law (Old English Old English (, ), or Anglo-Saxon, is the earliest record ...
and so both governs that society and lives off of the wealth generated by the labouring classes. Marx identified society's relations of production (arising on the basis of given productive forces) as the
economic baseEconomic base analysis is a theory that posits that activities in an area divide into two categories: basic and nonbasic. Basic industries are those exporting from the region and bringing wealth from outside, while nonbasic (or service) industries su ...
of society. He also explained that on the foundation of the economic base there arise certain political institutions, laws, customs, culture, etc., and ideas, ways of thinking, morality, etc. These constitute the political/ideological "
superstructure A superstructure is an upward extension of an existing structure above a baseline. This term is applied to various kinds of physical structures such as buildings, bridges, or ships having the Degrees of freedom (mechanics), degree of freedom ze ...
" of society. This superstructure not only has its origin in the economic base, but its features also ultimately correspond to the character and development of that economic base, i.e. the way people organize society, its relations of production, and its mode of production. G.A. Cohen argues in '' Karl Marx's Theory of History: A Defence'' that a society's superstructure stabilizes or entrenches its economic structure, but that the economic base is primary and the superstructure secondary. That said, it is precisely because the superstructure strongly affects the base that the base selects that superstructure. As puts it, "These two directions of influence are so far from being rivals that they are actually complementary. The functional explanation requires that the secondary factor tend to have a causal effect on the primary, for this dispositional fact is the key feature of the explanation." It is because the influences in the two directions are not symmetrical that it makes sense to speak of primary and secondary factors, even where one is giving a non-reductionist, "holistic" account of social interaction. To summarize, history develops in accordance with the following observations: # Social progress is driven by progress in the material,
productive forces Productive forces, productive powers, or forces of production (German German(s) may refer to: Common uses * of or related to Germany * Germans, Germanic ethnic group, citizens of Germany or people of German ancestry * For citizens of Germany, ...
a society has at its disposal (
technology Technology ("science of craft", from Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. I ...

technology
,
labour Labour or labor may refer to: * Childbirth Childbirth, also known as labour or delivery, is the ending of pregnancy where one or more babies leaves the uterus by passing through the vagina or by Caesarean section. In 2015, there were about 13 ...
,
capital goods Capital most commonly refers to: * Capital letter, an upper-case letter in any type of writing * Capital city, the area of a country, province, region, or state, regarded as enjoying primary status, usually but not always the seat of the gover ...
and so on) # Humans are inevitably involved in productive relations (roughly speaking, economic relationships or institutions), which constitute our most decisive
social relations In social science Social science is the Branches of science, branch of science devoted to the study of society, societies and the Social relation, relationships among individuals within those societies. The term was formerly used to refer t ...
. These relations progress with the development of the productive forces. They are largely determined by the
division of labor Division or divider may refer to: Mathematics *Division (mathematics) Division is one of the four basic operations of arithmetic, the ways that numbers are combined to make new numbers. The other operations are addition, subtraction, and multi ...
, which in turn tends to determine
social class A social class is a set of concepts in the social sciences Social science is the Branches of science, branch of science devoted to the study of society, societies and the Social relation, relationships among individuals within those soc ...
. #
Relations of production Relations of production (german: Produktionsverhältnisse, links=no) is a concept frequently used by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in their theory of historical materialism and in '' Das Kapital''. It is first explicitly used in Marx's publi ...
are both determined by the means and forces of production and set the conditions of their development. For example, capitalism tends to increase the rate at which the forces develop and stresses the
accumulation of capital Capital accumulation (also termed the accumulation of capital) is the dynamic that motivates the pursuit of profit, involving the investment Investment is the dedication of an asset to attain an increase in value over a period of time. Invest ...
. # The relations of production define the mode of production, e.g. the capitalist mode of production is characterized by the polarization of society into capitalists and workers. # The
superstructure A superstructure is an upward extension of an existing structure above a baseline. This term is applied to various kinds of physical structures such as buildings, bridges, or ships having the Degrees of freedom (mechanics), degree of freedom ze ...
—the cultural and institutional features of a society, its ideological materials—is ultimately an expression of the mode of production on which the society is founded. # Every type of
state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspaper), a daily newspaper in Columbia, South Carolina, Un ...
is a powerful
institution Institutions, according to Samuel P. Huntington Samuel Phillips Huntington (April 18, 1927 – December 24, 2008) was an American political scientist, adviser and academic. He spent more than half a century at Harvard University Ha ...
of the ruling class; the state is an instrument which one class uses to secure its rule and enforce its preferred relations of production and its
exploitation Exploitation may refer to: *Exploitation of natural resources *Exploitation of labour *Exploitation fiction *Exploitation film *Exploitation (film), ''Exploitation'' (film), a 2012 film *Sexual slavery and other forms of slavery *Oppression See al ...
onto society. # State power is usually only transferred from one class to another by social and political upheaval. # When a given relation of production no longer supports further progress in the productive forces, either further progress is strangled, or 'revolution' must occur. # The actual historical process is not predetermined but depends on class struggle, especially the elevation of class consciousness and organization of the working class.


Key implications in the study and understanding of history

Many writers note that historical materialism represented a revolution in human thought, and a break from previous ways of understanding the underlying basis of change within various human societies. As Marx puts it, "a coherence arises in human history" because each generation inherits the productive forces developed previously and in turn further develops them before passing them on to the next generation. Further, this coherence increasingly involves more of humanity the more the productive forces develop and expand to bind people together in production and exchange. This understanding counters the notion that human history is simply a series of accidents, either without any underlying cause or caused by supernatural beings or forces exerting their will on society. Historical materialism posits that history is made as a result of struggle between different social classes rooted in the underlying economic base. According to G.A. Cohen, author of '' Karl Marx's Theory of History: A Defence'', the level of development of society's productive forces (i.e., society's technological powers, including tools, machinery, raw materials, and labour power) determines society's economic structure, in the sense that it selects a structure of economic relations that tends best to facilitate further technological growth. In historical explanation, the overall primacy of the productive forces can be understood in terms of two key theses: In saying that productive forces have a universal ''tendency'' to develop, Cohen's reading of Marx is not claiming that productive forces always develop or that they never decline. Their development may be temporarily blocked, but because human beings have a rational interest in developing their capacities to control their interactions with external nature in order to satisfy their wants, the historical tendency is strongly toward further development of these capacities. Broadly, the importance of the study of history lies in the ability of history to explain the present.
John Bellamy Foster John Bellamy Foster (born August 15, 1953) is an American professor Professor (commonly abbreviated as Prof.) is an Academy, academic rank at university, universities and other post-secondary education and research institutions in most countr ...
asserts that historical materialism is important in explaining history from a scientific perspective, by following the scientific method, as opposed to belief-system theories like
creationism Creationism is the religious belief A belief is an attitude that something is the case, or that some proposition about the world is truth, true. In epistemology, philosophers use the term "belief" to refer to attitudes about the world whic ...

creationism
and
intelligent design Intelligent design (ID) is a pseudoscientific Pseudoscience consists of statements, belief A belief is an Attitude (psychology), attitude that something is the case, or that some proposition about the world is truth, true. In episte ...
, which do not base their beliefs on verifiable facts and hypotheses.


Trajectory of historical development

The main modes of production that Marx identified generally include
primitive communism Primitive communism is a way of describing the gift economies of hunter-gatherers throughout history, where resources and property hunted and gathered are shared with all members of a group, in accordance with individual needs. In political socio ...
, ,
feudalism Feudalism, also known as the feudal system, was the combination of the legal, economic, military, and cultural customs that flourished in Medieval Europe In the history of Europe The history of Europe concerns itself with the disc ...
,
mercantilism Mercantilism is an economic policy The economic policy of governments covers the systems for setting levels of taxation, government budgets, the money supply and interest rates as well as the labour market, nationalization, national owner ...

mercantilism
, and
capitalism Capitalism is an economic system An economic system, or economic order, is a system A system is a group of interacting Interaction is a kind of action that occurs as two or more objects have an effect upon one another. The idea o ...

capitalism
. In each of these social stages, people interacted with nature and production in different ways. Any surplus from that production was distributed differently as well. To Marx, ancient societies (e.g. Rome and Greece) were based on a ruling class of citizens and a class of slaves; feudalism was based on
nobles Nobility is a normally ranked immediately below and found in some societies that have a formal . Nobility has often been an that possessed more acknowledged and higher than most other classes in society. The privileges associated wi ...

nobles
and
serfs Serfdom was the status of many peasants under feudalism, specifically relating to manorialism, and similar systems. It was a condition of debt bondage and indentured servitude with similarities to and differences from slavery, which developed ...
; and capitalism based on the
capitalist class Bourgeoisie (; ) is a Polysemy, polysemous French term that can mean: * a sociologically defined social class, especially in contemporary times, referring to people with a certain Cultural capital, cultural and financial capital belonging to ...
(
bourgeoisie Bourgeoisie (; ) is a polysemous Polysemy ( or ; from grc-gre, πολύ-, , "many" and , , "sign") is the capacity for a word or phrase to have multiple meanings, usually related by contiguity of meaning within a semantic fieldIn linguisti ...

bourgeoisie
) and the
working class The working class (or labouring class) comprises those engaged in manual-labour occupations or industrial work, who are remunerated via waged or salaried contracts. Working-class occupations (see also "Designation of workers by collar colorCo ...
(
proletariat The proletariat (; ) is the social class of wage labor, wage-earners, those members of a society whose only possession of significant economic value is their labour power (their capacity to work). A member of such a class is a proletarian. Marx ...

proletariat
).


Primitive communism

To historical materialists,
hunter-gatherer A hunter-gatherer is a human Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are the most populous and widespread species of primates, characterized by bipedality, opposable thumbs, hairlessness, and intelligence allowing the use of culture, language and tools. T ...
societies, also known as primitive communist societies, were structured so that economic forces and political forces were one and the same. Societies generally did not have a state, property, money, nor social classes. Due to their limited means of production (hunting and gathering) each individual was only able to produce enough to sustain themselves, thus without any surplus there is nothing to exploit. A slave at this point would only be an extra mouth to feed. This inherently makes them communist in social relations although primitive in productive forces.


Ancient mode of production

Slave societies, the , were formed as
productive forces Productive forces, productive powers, or forces of production (German German(s) may refer to: Common uses * of or related to Germany * Germans, Germanic ethnic group, citizens of Germany or people of German ancestry * For citizens of Germany, ...
advanced, namely due to
agriculture Agriculture is the science, art and practice of cultivating plants and livestock. Agriculture was the key development in the rise of sedentary Image:Family watching television 1958.jpg, Exercise trends, Increases in sedentary behaviors su ...

agriculture
and its ensuing abundance which led to the abandonment of nomadic society. Slave societies were marked by their use of
slavery Slavery and enslavement are both the state and the condition of being a slave, who is someone forbidden to quit their service for an enslaver, and who is treated by the enslaver as their property Property is a system of rights that give ...
and minor
private property Private property is a legal designation for the ownership of property by non-governmental legal entities. Private property is distinguishable from public property Public property is property Property (''latin: Res Privata'') in the Abstract ...
;
production for use Production for use is a phrase referring to the principle of economic organization and production taken as a defining criterion for a Socialism, socialist economy. It is held in contrast to production for profit. This criterion is used to distinguis ...
was the primary form of production. Slave society is considered by historical materialists to be the first class society formed of
citizens Citizenship is a relationship between an individual and a state to which the individual owes allegiance and in turn is entitled to its protection. Each state determines the conditions under which it will recognize persons as its citizens, and t ...

citizens
and
slaves Slavery and enslavement are both the state and the condition of being a slave, who is someone forbidden to quit their service for an enslaver, and who is treated by the enslaver as their property. Slavery typically involves the enslaved per ...
. Surplus from agriculture was distributed to the citizens, which exploited the slaves who worked the fields.


Feudal mode of production

The feudal mode of production emerged from slave society (e.g. in Europe after the collapse of the Roman Empire), coinciding with the further advance of productive forces. Feudal society's class relations were marked by an entrenched
nobility Nobility is a social class normally ranked immediately below Royal family, royalty and found in some societies that have a formal aristocracy (class), aristocracy. Nobility has often been an Estates of the realm, estate of the realm that p ...
and
serfdom Serfdom was the status of many peasant A peasant is a pre-industrial farmhand, agricultural laborer or a farmer with limited land-ownership, especially one living in the Middle Ages under feudalism and tenant farmer, paying rent, tax, fee ...
. Simple commodity production existed in the form of artisans and merchants. This merchant class would grow in size and eventually form the
bourgeoisie Bourgeoisie (; ) is a polysemous Polysemy ( or ; from grc-gre, πολύ-, , "many" and , , "sign") is the capacity for a word or phrase to have multiple meanings, usually related by contiguity of meaning within a semantic fieldIn linguisti ...

bourgeoisie
. Despite this, production was still largely for use.


Capitalist mode of production

The capitalist mode of production materialized when the rising bourgeois class grew large enough to institute a shift in the productive forces. The bourgeoisie's primary form of production was in the form of
commodities In economics, a commodity is an economic goods, good, usually a resource, that has full or substantial fungibility: that is, the Market (economics), market treats instances of the good as equivalent or nearly so with no regard to who Production ...
, i.e. they produced with the purpose of exchanging their products. As this commodity production grew, the old feudal systems came into conflict with the new capitalist ones; feudalism was then eschewed as capitalism emerged. The
bourgeoisie Bourgeoisie (; ) is a polysemous Polysemy ( or ; from grc-gre, πολύ-, , "many" and , , "sign") is the capacity for a word or phrase to have multiple meanings, usually related by contiguity of meaning within a semantic fieldIn linguisti ...

bourgeoisie
's influence expanded until commodity production became fully generalized:
The feudal system of industry, in which industrial production was monopolised by closed guilds, now no longer sufficed for the growing wants of the new markets. The manufacturing system took its place. The guild-masters were pushed on one side by the manufacturing middle class; division of labour between the different corporate guilds vanished in the face of division of labour in each single workshop.
With the rise of the bourgeoisie came the concepts of
nation-states A nation state is a political unit where the state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newsp ...
and
nationalism Nationalism is an idea and movement that holds that the nation A nation is a community A community is a social unitThe term "level of analysis" is used in the social sciences to point to the location, size, or scale of a research target ...
. Marx argued that capitalism completely separated the economic and political forces. Marx took the state to be a sign of this separation—it existed to manage the massive conflicts of interest which arose between the proletariat and bourgeoisie in capitalist society. Marx observed that nations arose at the time of the appearance of capitalism on the basis of community of economic life, territory, language, certain features of psychology, and traditions of everyday life and culture. In ''
The Communist Manifesto ''The Communist Manifesto'', originally the ''Manifesto of the Communist Party'' (german: Manifest der Kommunistischen Partei), is an 1848 pamphlet by German philosophers Karl Marx Karl Heinrich Marx (; 5 May 1818 – 14 March 1883) was ...
''. Marx and Engels explained that the coming into existence of nation-states was the result of class struggle, specifically of the capitalist class's attempts to overthrow the institutions of the former ruling class. Prior to capitalism, nations were not the primary political form.
Vladimir Lenin Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov. ( 1870 – 21 January 1924), better known by his alias Lenin,. was a Russian revolutionary, politician, and political theorist. He served as the first and founding head of government The head of government is e ...

Vladimir Lenin
shared a similar view on nation-states. There were two opposite tendencies in the development of nations under capitalism. One of them was expressed in the activation of national life and national movements against the oppressors. The other was expressed in the expansion of links among nations, the breaking down of barriers between them, the establishment of a unified economy and of a world market (
globalization Globalization, or globalisation (Commonwealth English The use of the English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medieval England, which ha ...

globalization
); the first is a characteristic of lower-stage capitalism and the second a more advanced form, furthering the unity of the international proletariat. Alongside this development was the forced removal of the
serfdom Serfdom was the status of many peasant A peasant is a pre-industrial farmhand, agricultural laborer or a farmer with limited land-ownership, especially one living in the Middle Ages under feudalism and tenant farmer, paying rent, tax, fee ...
from the countryside to the city, forming a new . This caused the countryside to become reliant on large cities. Subsequently, the new capitalist mode of production also began expanding into other societies that had not yet developed a capitalist system (e.g. the scramble for Africa). ''The Communist Manifesto'' stated:
National differences and antagonism between peoples are daily more and more vanishing, owing to the development of the bourgeoisie, to freedom of commerce, to the world market, to uniformity in the mode of production and in the conditions of life corresponding thereto. The supremacy of the proletariat will cause them to vanish still faster. United action, of the leading civilised countries at least, is one of the first conditions for the emancipation of the proletariat. In proportion as the exploitation of one individual by another will also be put an end to, the exploitation of one nation by another will also be put an end to. In proportion as the antagonism between classes within the nation vanishes, the hostility of one nation to another will come to an end.
Under capitalism, the
bourgeoisie Bourgeoisie (; ) is a polysemous Polysemy ( or ; from grc-gre, πολύ-, , "many" and , , "sign") is the capacity for a word or phrase to have multiple meanings, usually related by contiguity of meaning within a semantic fieldIn linguisti ...

bourgeoisie
and
proletariat The proletariat (; ) is the social class of wage labor, wage-earners, those members of a society whose only possession of significant economic value is their labour power (their capacity to work). A member of such a class is a proletarian. Marx ...

proletariat
become the two primary classes.
Class struggle Class conflict, also referred to as class struggle and class warfare, is the political tension and economic antagonism that exists in society A society is a Social group, group of individuals involved in persistent Social relation, socia ...
between these two classes was now prevalent. With the emergence of capitalism, productive forces were now able to flourish, causing the
industrial revolution The Industrial Revolution was the transition to new manufacturing processes in Great Britain, continental Europe Continental Europe or mainland Europe is the contiguous continent A continent is any of several large landmasse ...
in Europe. Despite this, however, the productive forces eventually reach a point where they can no longer expand, causing the same collapse that occurred at the end of feudalism:
Modern bourgeois society, with its relations of production, of exchange and of property, a society that has conjured up such gigantic means of production and of exchange, is like the sorcerer who is no longer able to control the powers of the nether world whom he has called up by his spells. ..The productive forces at the disposal of society no longer tend to further the development of the conditions of bourgeois property; on the contrary, they have become too powerful for these conditions, by which they are fettered, and so soon as they overcome these fetters, they bring disorder into the whole of bourgeois society, endanger the existence of bourgeois property.


Communist mode of production


Lower-stage of communism

The
bourgeoisie Bourgeoisie (; ) is a polysemous Polysemy ( or ; from grc-gre, πολύ-, , "many" and , , "sign") is the capacity for a word or phrase to have multiple meanings, usually related by contiguity of meaning within a semantic fieldIn linguisti ...

bourgeoisie
, as Marx stated in ''
The Communist Manifesto ''The Communist Manifesto'', originally the ''Manifesto of the Communist Party'' (german: Manifest der Kommunistischen Partei), is an 1848 pamphlet by German philosophers Karl Marx Karl Heinrich Marx (; 5 May 1818 – 14 March 1883) was ...
'', has "forged the weapons that bring death to itself; it has also called into existence the men who are to wield those weapons—the modern working class—the proletarians." Historical materialists henceforth believe that the modern
proletariat The proletariat (; ) is the social class of wage labor, wage-earners, those members of a society whose only possession of significant economic value is their labour power (their capacity to work). A member of such a class is a proletarian. Marx ...

proletariat
are the new revolutionary class in relation to the bourgeoisie, in the same way that the bourgeoisie was the revolutionary class in relation to the nobility under feudalism. The proletariat, then, must seize power as the new revolutionary class in a
dictatorship of the proletariat In Marxist philosophy Marxist philosophy or Marxist theory are works in philosophy that are strongly influenced by Karl Marx's Historical materialism, materialist approach to theory, or works written by Marxists. Marxist philosophy may be broadly ...
.
Between capitalist and communist society there lies the period of the revolutionary transformation of the one into the other. Corresponding to this is also a political transition period in which the state can be nothing but the ''revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat''.
Marx also describes a communist society developed alongside the proletarian dictatorship:
Within the co-operative society based on common ownership of the means of production, the producers do not exchange their products; just as little does the labor employed on the products appear here as the value of these products, as a material quality possessed by them, since now, in contrast to capitalist society, individual labor no longer exists in an indirect fashion but directly as a component part of total labor. The phrase "proceeds of labor", objectionable also today on account of its ambiguity, thus loses all meaning. What we have to deal with here is a communist society, not as it has ''developed'' on its own foundations, but, on the contrary, just as it ''emerges'' from capitalist society; which is thus in every respect, economically, morally, and intellectually, still stamped with the birthmarks of the old society from whose womb it emerges. Accordingly, the individual producer receives back from society—after the deductions have been made—exactly what he gives to it. What he has given to it is his individual quantum of labor. For example, the social working day consists of the sum of the individual hours of work; the individual labor time of the individual producer is the part of the social working day contributed by him, his share in it. He receives a certificate from society that he has furnished such-and-such an amount of labor (after deducting his labor for the common funds); and with this certificate, he draws from the social stock of means of consumption as much as the same amount of labor cost. The same amount of labor which he has given to society in one form, he receives back in another.
This lower-stage of communist society is, according to Marx, analogous to the lower-stage of capitalist society, i.e. the transition from feudalism to capitalism, in that both societies are "stamped with the birthmarks of the old society from whose womb it emerges." The emphasis on the idea that modes of production do not exist in isolation but rather are materialized from the previous existence is a core idea in historical materialism. There is considerable debate among communists regarding the nature of this society. Some such as
Joseph Stalin Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin . ( – 5 March 1953) was a Georgia (country), Georgian revolutionary and the ruler of the Soviet Union from 1927 until 1953. He served as both General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (1922 ...
,
Fidel Castro Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz (; ; 13 August 1926 – 25 November 2016) was a Cuban revolutionary, lawyer, and politician who was the leader of Cuba from 1959 to 2008, serving as the prime minister of Cuba from 1959 to 1976 and President of Cuba ...

Fidel Castro
, and other Marxist-Leninists believe that the lower-stage of communism constitutes its own mode of production, which they call socialist rather than communist. Marxist-Leninists believe that this society may still maintain the concepts of property, money, and commodity production. Other communists argue that the lower-stage of communism is just that; a communist mode of production, without commodities or money, stamped with the birthmarks of capitalism.


Higher-stage of communism

To Marx, the higher-stage of communist society is a free association of producers which has successfully negated all remnants of capitalism, notably the concepts of
states State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspaper), a daily newspaper in Columbia, South Carolina, Un ...
,
nationality Nationality is a of a person in , establishing the person as a subject, a ''national'', of a . It affords the state jurisdiction over the person and affords the person the protection of the state against other states. Article 15 of the stat ...
,
sexism Sexism is prejudice Prejudice can be an affective feeling towards a person based on their perceived group membership. The word is often used to refer to a preconceived (usually unfavourable) evaluation or classification of another per ...
,
families In human society, family (from la, familia) is a Social group, group of people related either by consanguinity (by recognized birth) or Affinity (law), affinity (by marriage or other relationship). The purpose of families is to maintain the w ...

families
, alienation, social classes,
money Money is any item or verifiable record that is generally accepted as payment for goods and services and repayment of debts, such as taxes, in a particular country or socio-economic context. The main functions of money are distinguished as: a ...

money
,
property Property is a system of rights that gives people legal control of valuable things, and also refers to the valuable things themselves. Depending on the nature of the property, an owner of property may have the right to consume, alter, share, r ...
,
commodities In economics, a commodity is an economic goods, good, usually a resource, that has full or substantial fungibility: that is, the Market (economics), market treats instances of the good as equivalent or nearly so with no regard to who Production ...
, the
bourgeoisie Bourgeoisie (; ) is a polysemous Polysemy ( or ; from grc-gre, πολύ-, , "many" and , , "sign") is the capacity for a word or phrase to have multiple meanings, usually related by contiguity of meaning within a semantic fieldIn linguisti ...

bourgeoisie
, the
proletariat The proletariat (; ) is the social class of wage labor, wage-earners, those members of a society whose only possession of significant economic value is their labour power (their capacity to work). A member of such a class is a proletarian. Marx ...

proletariat
,
division of labor Division or divider may refer to: Mathematics *Division (mathematics) Division is one of the four basic operations of arithmetic, the ways that numbers are combined to make new numbers. The other operations are addition, subtraction, and multi ...
,
cities A city is a large human settlement In geography, statistics and archaeology, a settlement, locality or populated place is a community in which people live. The complexity of a settlement can range from a small number of dwellings grouped to ...
and
countryside A rural landscape in Lappeenranta, South Karelia, Finland. 15 July 2000.">South_Karelia.html" ;"title="Lappeenranta, South Karelia">Lappeenranta, South Karelia, Finland. 15 July 2000. In general, a rural area or a countryside is a geographic ...

countryside
,
class struggle Class conflict, also referred to as class struggle and class warfare, is the political tension and economic antagonism that exists in society A society is a Social group, group of individuals involved in persistent Social relation, socia ...
,
religion Religion is a social Social organisms, including humans, live collectively in interacting populations. This interaction is considered social whether they are aware of it or not, and whether the exchange is voluntary/involuntary. Etymology ...

religion
,
ideology An ideology () is a set of belief A belief is an attitude Attitude may refer to: Philosophy and psychology * Attitude (psychology) In psychology Psychology is the science of mind and behavior. Psychology includes the study of ...
, and
markets Market may refer to: *Market (economics) *Market economy *Marketplace, a physical marketplace or public market Geography *Märket, an island shared by Finland and Sweden Art, entertainment, and media Films *Market (1965 film), ''Market'' (1965 ...
. It is the
negation In logic Logic is an interdisciplinary field which studies truth and reasoning Reason is the capacity of consciously making sense of things, applying logic Logic (from Ancient Greek, Greek: grc, wikt:λογική, λογική, ...

negation
of
capitalism Capitalism is an economic system An economic system, or economic order, is a system A system is a group of interacting Interaction is a kind of action that occurs as two or more objects have an effect upon one another. The idea o ...

capitalism
. Marx made the following comments on the higher-phase of communist society:
In a higher phase of communist society, after the enslaving subordination of the individual to the
division of labor Division or divider may refer to: Mathematics *Division (mathematics) Division is one of the four basic operations of arithmetic, the ways that numbers are combined to make new numbers. The other operations are addition, subtraction, and multi ...
, and therewith also the antithesis between mental and physical labor, has vanished; after labor has become not only a means of life but life's prime want; after the productive forces have also increased with the all-around development of the individual, and all the springs of co-operative wealth flow more abundantly—only then can the narrow horizon of be crossed in its entirety and society inscribe on its banners: From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs!


Warnings against misuse

In the 1872 Preface to the French edition of ''
Das Kapital ''Das Kapital'', also known as ''Capital: A Critique of Political Economy'' or sometimes simply ''Capital'' (german: Das Kapital. Kritik der politischen Ökonomie, ; 1867–1883), is a foundational theoretical text in materialist philosophy, c ...

Das Kapital
'' Vol. 1, Marx emphasized that " ere is no royal road to science, and only those who do not dread the fatiguing climb of its steep paths have a chance of gaining its luminous summits." Reaching a scientific understanding required conscientious, painstaking research, instead of philosophical speculation and unwarranted, sweeping generalizations. Having abandoned abstract philosophical speculation in his youth, Marx himself showed great reluctance during the rest of his life about offering any generalities or universal truths about human existence or human history. Marx himself took care to indicate that he was only proposing a guideline to historical research ('' Leitfaden'' or '' Auffassung''), and was not providing any substantive "theory of history" or "grand philosophy of history", let alone a "master-key to history". Engels expressed irritation with dilettante academics who sought to knock up their skimpy historical knowledge as quickly as possible into some grand theoretical system that would explain "everything" about history. He opined that historical materialism and the theory of modes of production was being used as an excuse for not studying history. The first explicit and systematic summary of the materialist interpretation of history published was Engels's book ''Herr Eugen Dühring's Revolution in Science'', written with Marx's approval and guidance, and often referred to as the ''
Anti-Dühring ''Anti-Dühring'' (german: Herrn Eugen Dührings Umwälzung der Wissenschaft, "Herr Eugen Dühring's Revolution in Science") is a book by Friedrich Engels, first published in German in 1878. It had previously been serialised in the newspaper ''Vor ...
''. One of the polemics was to ridicule the easy "world schematism" of philosophers, who invented the latest wisdom from behind their writing desks. Towards the end of his life, in 1877, Marx wrote a letter to the editor of the Russian paper ''Otetchestvennye Zapisky'', which significantly contained the following disclaimer: Marx goes on to illustrate how the same factors can in different historical contexts produce very different results, so that quick and easy generalizations are not really possible. To indicate how seriously Marx took research, when he died, his estate contained several cubic metres of Russian statistical publications (it was, as the old Marx observed, in Russia that his ideas gained most influence). Insofar as Marx and Engels regarded historical processes as
law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, surrounded and influenced by its environment, is described by its bounda ...
-governed processes, the possible future directions of historical development were to a great extent ''limited'' and ''conditioned'' by what happened before. Retrospectively, historical processes could be understood to have happened by ''necessity'' in certain ways and not others, and to some extent at least, the most likely variants of the future could be specified on the basis of careful study of the known facts. Towards the end of his life, Engels commented several times about the abuse of historical materialism. In a letter to Conrad Schmidt dated 5 August 1890, he stated: Finally, in a letter to Franz Mehring dated 14 July 1893, Engels stated:


Criticism

Philosopher of science
Karl Popper Sir Karl Raimund Popper (28 July 1902 – 17 September 1994) was an Austrian-British , and . One of the 20th century's most influential , Popper is known for his rejection of the classical views on the in favour of . According to Popper, a ...

Karl Popper
, in ''
The Poverty of Historicism ''The Poverty of Historicism'' is a 1957 book by the philosopher Karl Popper, in which the author argues that the idea of historicism is dangerous and bankrupt. Publication ''The Poverty of Historicism'' was first written as a paper which was rea ...
'' and ''Conjectures and Refutations'', critiqued such claims of the explanatory power or valid application of historical materialism by arguing that it could explain or explain away any fact brought before it, making it unfalsifiable and thus
pseudoscientific Pseudoscience consists of statements, beliefs, or practices that claim to be both scientific and factual but are incompatible with the scientific method. Pseudoscience is often characterized by contradictory, exaggerated or falsifiability, un ...
. Similar arguments were brought by
Leszek Kołakowski Leszek Kołakowski (; ; 23 October 1927 – 17 July 2009) was a Polish philosopher and history of ideas, historian of ideas. He is best known for his critical analyses of Marxism, Marxist thought, especially his three-volume history, ''Main Curre ...
in '' Main Currents of Marxism.'' In his 1940 essay '' Theses on the Philosophy of History'', scholar
Walter Benjamin Walter Bendix Schönflies Benjamin (; ; 15 July 1892 – 26 September 1940) was a German Jewish philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy. The term ''philosopher'' comes from the grc, φιλόσοφος, , translit=philo ...

Walter Benjamin
compares historical materialism to the Turk, an 18th-century device which was promoted as a mechanized automaton which could defeat skilled chess players but actually concealed a human who controlled the machine. Benjamin suggested that, despite Marx's claims to scientific objectivity, historical materialism was actually quasi-religious. Like the Turk, wrote Benjamin, " e puppet called 'historical materialism' is always supposed to win. It can do this with no further ado against any opponent, so long as it employs the services of
theology Theology is the systematic study of the nature of the divine Divinity or the divine are things that are either related to, devoted to, or proceeding from a deity A deity or god is a supernatural The supernatural encompasses supposed ...
, which as everyone knows is small and ugly and must be kept out of sight." Benjamin's friend and colleague
Gershom Scholem Gershom Scholem () (5 December 1897 – 21 February 1982), was a German-born Israel Israel (; he, יִשְׂרָאֵל, translit=Yīsrāʾēl; ar, إِسْرَائِيل, translit=ʾIsrāʾīl), officially the State of Israel ( he, מְ ...
would argue that Benjamin's critique of historical materialism was so definitive that, as
Mark Lilla Mark Lilla (born 1956) is an American political scientist, historian of ideas, journalist, and professor of humanities Humanities are academic disciplines An academic discipline or academic field is a subdivision of knowledge that is Educa ...
would write, "nothing remains of historical materialism ..but the term itself". Neven Sesardic argues that historical materialism is a highly exaggerated claim. Sesardic observes that it was clear to many Marxists that the social, cultural and ideological superstructure of society was not under the control of the base but had at least some degree of autonomy. It was also clear that phenomena of the superstructure could determine part of the economic base. Thus Sesardic argues that Marxists moved from a claim of the dominance of the economic base to a scenario in which the base sometimes determines the superstructure and the superstructure sometimes determines the base, which Sesardic argues destroys their whole position. This is because this new claim, according to Sesardic, is so innocuous that no-one would deny it, whereas the old claim was very radical, as it posited the dominance of economics. Sesardic argues that Marxists should have abandoned historical materialism when its strong version became untenable, but instead they chose to water it down until it became a trivial claim.Sesardić, Neven. "Marxian Utopia." (1985), Centre for Research into Communist Economies, , pp.14-15


See also


References


Citations


Sources

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Further reading

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Critical account which focusses on incoherencies in the thought of Marx, Engels and Lenin. * *
American criticism of orthodox Marxism and argument for a more radical version of historical materialism that sticks closer to Marx by changing itself to keep up with changes in the historical situation. * * *
Contains an early defence of the materialist conception of history against its critics of the day. *
Free interpretation of Marx's idea. *
Influential analytical Marxist interpretation. *
Captures the full subtlety of Marx's thought, but at length in four volumes. *
Good reply to false interpretations of Marx's view of history. * * *
Sympathetically critical of dialectical materialism. *
Argues historical materialism must be revised to include communicative action. *
Marxist view of history according to a leader of the International Socialist Tendency. * *
Provides an introductory chapter on historical materialism. *
Attempts to provide an alternative to schematic interpretations of historical materialism. *
Good survey. *
Emphasizes understanding the roots of class society and the state. *
Modelled on Lenin's "Three components of Marxism" but with a section on the reception and diffusion of Marxism in the world. *
Standard Maoist reading of Marx's materialism. * * * * * * * * * * *
Classic statement by a contemporary and friend of Marx & Engels. *
Trotskyist interpretations of problems of history. *
Attempts to develop a post-Stalinist interpretation of Marx's project. *
Classical Marxist account of the philosophy of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Lukacs, and Trotsky. * *
Provides a short survey. * *
Classic statement of Stalinist doctrine. *
Includes a good short introduction. * *
Critical survey of the relationship between sociology and historical materialism. *
Polemic which ridicules theorists of history who do not actually study history. *
Alternative survey. *
Sees historical materialism as a methodology and ''Das Kapital'' as an application of the method. *
Delves into misinterpretations of Marx including the substitution of "Historical materialism" by Lenin. {{DEFAULTSORT:Historical Materialism Ideology of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Marxist theory Marxism Theories of history Materialism Historical materialism